Monday, October 06, 2008

Recent Italian Poetry from Erri De Luca and Roberta Dapunt

I was fortunate on a recent trip to Italy to pick up the latest collections from these two poets. Finding very new poetry seems to be just as hard in Italy as it is here. Most bookshops carry very little poetry and publishing houses with the exception of Einaudi seem to play safe with the old classics.

Erri De Luca: L’ospite incallito 2008 pub Einaudi Turin ISBN 978-88-06-19261-7 67pp. €8.00

L’ospite incallito (The inveterate guest) is the third book of poetry by Erri De Luca, who is perhaps better known for his many prose works. The book is in four sections: Effetti personali, Natura, Historia, and Persone. Within these sections are recurring themes which preoccupy us all: life and death, war, opposites and dualities, love and relationships as well as the de rigueur (for a Neapolitan linguaphile like De Luca) poems on accent, dialect and language such as Da noi, L’estate del ’43 and especially Proposta di modifica:

‘ C’è il verbo snaturare, ci dev’essere pure innaturare

M’innaturo di te quando t’abbraccio.’

Some of these poems derive their impact and weight from a catalogue or litany of examples. In L’ospite incallito it is all the different ways and places where he has been a guest; in Prontuario per il brindisi di capodanno, it is all the different toasts one could propose; in the excellent Da un verso di Marina Z, it is all the different places where celestial attraction exists.
Other poems reflect De Luca’s political life and interests but seem to me to be more observational than expressive. For me, his exceptional poetry is that which deals with his relationships: Maniera, Coincidenza col padre, Il nome: Aldo De Luca amongst others. With its great range of subject matter, this collection will appeal to all sorts of poetry lovers.

Roberta Dapunt: La terra più del paradiso 2008 pub Einaudi Turin ISBN 978-88-06-18583-1 49pp €8.00

This is Roberta Dapunt’s third collection, the others being OscuraMente (1993) and La carrezzata mela (1999). The title ( The Earth More Than Paradise) comes from a line in the first, untitled poem of the collection:

‘Perché solo è il corpo ad amare la terra più del paradiso,
nient’altro che la carne a mangiare il pane e bere il vino.’

Roberta Dapunt’s poems are unusual and special because she uses an almost classical economy of phrasing rather than the more everyday style of some of her contemporaries, without ever sounding contrived or precious, and also because she includes some poems written in her local Ladino with Italian translations beneath.

Her faith is confirmed daily by the regular dependability of rural life, by the inexorable rolling in of the seasons, especially winter.

‘Tutto è qui nella riservatezza rurale che ripeto
mattina e sera’
(from Di ritorno dalla stalla)

The silence and the solitude of life on a mountain farm inform her work where reflections on religion, birth and death, the family, and the writing process itself are all woven into days spent in the cowshed, the vegetable garden, the fields, and within the confines of her room. She is immersed in the land, looking after it as if it was her house (La mia confessione fedele); the hay and the dung and the solitude are her covenant (Di ritorno dalla stalla); she is so at one with the seasons that winter is inside her (Un altro inverno); when she has died she knows she will be the hay that is eaten, the floor of the cowshed, the silence that devours time between morning and evening (Ora che posso obbedire a me stessa).

Other poems deal with the difficulties of writing: her coarse,smelly hands waiting for her to write something (Mie mani); being sorry that she has no regrets at all about her poetry (penitenziale); inviting a pretend friend to sit and listen (le intime riflessioni, i); realising the room where she writes is her refuge (ibid,ii); repeating her words in the dark so that they enter her soul (ibid, iii); while writing, being transported to the dark of the cowshed (ibid, v).

Local characters are described with acute observation in other poems. There are also the heart-searching talks between the poet and God which alone are well worth reading.

The most moving poem in the collection for me is ‘Padre, questo viso sepolto’ with its simple but universal regret:

‘se solo ti avessi incontrato di più e baciato.’

If only, indeed. Roberta Dapunt has an authentic, honest, appealing voice in these poems and I am sure we will be hearing more of her in the future.